The Logic of the Double or Triple Threat

I’m currently reading Tim Ferris’s new book, Tools of Titanswhich is basically a collection of interviews from Tim’s podcast of very famous and successful people that he converted into book form. One of the chapters was of Scott Adams, who is most known for creating the famous comic strip Dilbert

Image result for dilbert comics

There was a section on his “career advice” that he would give to others, regarding having 2 or 3 skills (the double or triple threat) that you can become very good at (top 25%) rather than becoming the best at one specific thing. Becoming the best at one specific thing is extremely difficult and has a lot of competition. But combining 2 or 3 skills that you are very good at allows you to become both more rare and valuable. I’ve pasted his advice below:

Career Advice

Last night I met a script supervisor. She works with directors to make sure a movie has the right continuity, and one scene fits the next. It’s a fascinating job, hobnobbing with top directors, writers, and celebrities. No two assignments are the same. How do you get that kind of career? She earned a degree in anthropology and just “fell into it” through a series of events.

I know the feeling. I majored in economics, got an MBA, worked at a bank, then a phone company, and became a cartoonist.

For every person who studies something specific, such as the law or medicine, and actually ended up in that sort of career, I think there are five who let chance pick their careers. That works out more often than you’d think, but you can’t recommend it as a career strategy. Instead, I recommend a general formula for success. Allow me to explain.

If you want an average successful life, it doesn’t take much planning. Just stay out of trouble, go to school, and apply for jobs you might like. But if you want something extraordinary, you have two paths:

1. Become the best at one specific thing.
2. Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.

The first strategy is difficult to the point of near impossibility. Few people will ever play in the NBA or make a platinum album. I don’t recommend anyone even try.

The second strategy is fairly easy. Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort. In my case, I can draw better than most people, but I’m hardly an artist. And I’m not any funnier than the average standup comedian who never makes it big, but I’m funnier than most people. The magic is that few people can draw well and write jokes. It’s the combination of the two that makes what I do so rare. And when you add in my business background, suddenly I had a topic that few cartoonists could hope to understand without living it.

I always advise young people to become good public speakers (top 25%). Anyone can do it with practice. If you add that talent to any other, suddenly you’re the boss of the people who have only one skill. Or get a degree in business on top of your engineering degree, law degree, medical degree, science degree, or whatever. Suddenly you’re in charge, or maybe you’re starting your own company using your combined knowledge.

Capitalism rewards things that are both rare and valuable. You make yourself rare by combining two or more “pretty goods” until no one else has your mix. I didn’t spend much time with the script supervisor, but it was obvious that her verbal/writing skills were in the top tier as well as her people skills. I’m guessing she also has a high attention to detail, and perhaps a few other skills in the mix. Probably none of those skills are best in the world, but together they make a strong package. Apparently she’s been in high demand for decades.

At least one of the skills in your mixture should involve communication, either written or verbal. And it could be as simple as learning how to sell more effectively than 75% of the world. That’s one. Now add to that whatever your passion is, and you have two, because that’s the thing you’ll easily put enough energy into to reach the top 25%. If you have an aptitude for a third skill, perhaps business or public speaking, develop that too.

It sounds like generic advice, but you’d be hard pressed to find any successful person who didn’t have about three skills in the top 25%.

What are your three?



Foundational Concept of Money

Money is a transfer vehicle for value in this world. If we think from an evolutionary standpoint, we first acquired things we needed but didn’t possess by trading (barter). If I had a basket of potatoes and you had fresh drinking water that you traveled 10 miles to the nearest water source to get, we would trade resources (assuming we both wanted what the other had and perceived the traded goods as equal in perceived value). Everything was traded since it’s impossible to create/have everything you would ever need (in a civilized world). The concept of money was created in order to store value to make trading easier. We’re still trading, but now I can have a piece of paper that stores the same value as one of my cows in the case you might not want anything I have.
That’s all money is – a storage of value. So by definition, if you have more money, you possess more value. Assuming a law-abiding society, you could only have obtained more value by providing equal value to another/others. It’s like a perfectly balanced equation – you can’t ever provide X amount of value and receive 2X value in return. It’s a trade of equal proportions. So the proper way to think about obtaining more money is how can I provide more value to others?

Benjamin Franklin’s 13 Virtues

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was an autodidact, who taught himself an extraordinary range of knowledge and skills. He kept a journal from a very young age and by his early twenties had developed a list of 13 values, which he actually graded himself against every day in a notebook. He found that these values were very helpful to him in living his life as a statesman and diplomat and pursuing his career an inventor. While some of these particular values may seem old-fashioned or out of sync with modern life, I find it helpful and interesting to study him as an example of someone who thought deeply and seriously about the principles on which he based his life.

  1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. Order: Let all your things have its places; let each part of your business have its time.
  3. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  4. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself (i.e. waste not).
  5. Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  6. Industry: Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
  8. Tranquility: Be not distributed by trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  9. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  10. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly. And, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  11. Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  12. Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness or weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates. (This one was added later in his life.)